Tour a historic New Orleans Cemetery, do a self guided swamp tour, and visit the Chalmette Battlefield! Visit Jackson Square, the Moonwalk and Woldenberg Park. These are just some of the free things to do in New Orleans. There are many more free things to do in New Orleans that are both interesting and fun. You will find that attendance is free at many New Orleans festivals as well. So come on down to New Orleans and stroll along the New Orleans Riverfront, tour the St Louis Cathedral and visit the Sculpture Garden in New Orleans City Park. There is a good time to be had doing free things in New Orleans.
Tour a historic New Orleans Cemetery
New Orleans cemeteries are noted for their unique, above ground tombs. These above the ground tombs are required in the Crescent City because the ground water levels make underground burial impractical. As you explore New Orleans you will find that there are over a dozen cemeteries in the area to choose from. The two most popular are the St. Louis Cemetery #1 and the Lafayette Cemetery #1.
The St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the oldest and most famous New Orleans cemetery. It was opened in 1789 and is owned and maintained by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is one block beyond the French Quarter and across the street from the Basin Street Information Center. It also borders the Iberville housing project which was built over what was formerly Storyville.
The Lafayette Cemetery #1 opened in 1833. This cemetery is one block off of the St Charles Streetcar route and across the street from the famous Commanders Palace restaurant.
Admission to these cemeteries is FREE making them another free thing to do in New Orleans! However, walking tours to enhance your cemetery visit are available. See my Walking Tours page for more info.
Stroll along the New Orleans Riverfront
While you explore New Orleans be sure to make time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the New Orleans Riverfront. The New Orleans Riverfront is made up of the Moonwalk, the Steamboat Natchez dock, Woldenberg Park, the Aquarium of the Americas, the IMAX theatre, the Canal Street Ferry Terminal, the Plaza de Espana, and the >River Walk Outlet Mall.
To leisurely stroll this mile long stretch of riverfront will take you about 30 minutes. But why rush? Pick up a po-boy sandwich (of course I recommend Johnny's Po-Boys Restaurant only a block away) and relax on one of the many benches located along the riverfront. While you eat take in the beauty and majesty of the mighty Mississippi River and watch the Steamboat Natchez or the Canal Street Ferry depart or arrive. This makes for a great lunch experience in the French Quarter. Finally, if you are looking for great places to shop in New Orleans you can explore the dozens of shops in the River Walk Outlet Mall, it is a unique shopping mall located right on the Mississippi River. This little walk is another one of the awesome free things to do in New Orleans.
Relax and enjoy the New Orleans Street Performers
One of the many free things to do in the French Quarter while you explore New Orleans is to take time and enjoy the many New Orleans street performers that you will encounter. You will find street performers on Bourbon Street, Royal Street, in Jackson Square, and scattered else where throughout the French Quarter and sometimes along the river front. The most common street performers are musicians and human statues but I have also seen clowns, escape artist, puppeteers, and magicians in the French Quarter. While technically the street performer’s entertainment is free most of them are very good and make a living performing for the visitors to New Orleans. So if you enjoy their performance, or take their picture, or they some how enhance your visit to the Crescent City then please place a tip into their coffers.
Vist the St Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter
The St Louis Cathedral is a landmark for locals and visitors alike. The Cathedral is located in the French Quarter next to Jackson Square; it faces the Mississippi River and is situated between the historic buildings of the Cabildo and the Presbytère. The first church on the site was built in 1718; the third church, built in 1789, was raised to cathedral rank in 1793. The cathedral was expanded and largely rebuilt in 1850, with little of the 1789 structure remaining. The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest active Catholic cathedral in the United States. Although it is an active cathedral the interior is open for free self-guided tours when masses and other functions are not going on. The stained glass windows and paintings in the church are extraordinary works of art, as is the Rococo-style, gilded altar that graces the front of the church. Visiting the St Louis Cathedral should be a priority free thing to do while you explore New Orleans.
Not exactly free but a great way to explore New Orleans. There are four streetcar lines to choose from. The St Charles Line, the Canal St Line, the Riverfront Line and the Union Passenger Terminal(Train Station/Bus Station) Loop.
The famous St. Charles Line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world! The route is a 13 mile long loop and runs from Canal Street to Carondelet Avenue. Traveling down St Charles Avenue you will get to see dozens of historic New Orleans mansions. For extra fun you should get off along the way and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants along the route (of course I recommend Pascals Manale on Napoleon Avenue). For more information on restaurants and attractions along the St. Charles Streetcar line visit my St Charles Streetcar page.
The Canal Street Line opened in April of 2004. The Canal Streetcar takes you down Canal Street through downtown New Orleans and can take you to two destinations. One streetcar route ends at City Park Avenue at the historic city cemeteries (another free thing to do). The other street car route ends at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.
The Riverfront Line does exactly as it says in takes you along the New Orleans Riverfront. From Café Du Monde and the shops at the French Market to Waldenburg Park, the Aquarium of the Americus, and finally the River Walk Market Place.
Do a FREE self guided New Orleans swamp tour
Can you imagine a swamp tour as a free thing to do? If you are adventurous, have a car and don't want to spend big dollars on a commercial swamp tour, yet you would like to experience the swamp, I recommend you visit the Jean Lafitte National Park Barataria Preserve. Just 30 minutes south of New Orleans the park offers 20,000 acres of bayous, swamps, marshes, and forests. Within it boundaries you will find a visitor center and several trails that wind through the preserve. These boardwalks and dirt trails are your free entrance into the Louisiana swamps. I have walked all of the trails and the Bayou Conquille Trail is my favorite. Along the trails I have seen alligators, turtles, squirrel, nutria, egrets, ducks, frogs, lizards and snakes. I never visit the park between June and September because of the heat and the humidity. If you decide on doing this self guided New Orleans swamp tour then don’t forget bug spray, bottled water, and rain gear because the mosquitoes can be plentiful and thunder storms can pop up in a hurry. In addition to the walking trails the Preserve offers canoe trails, picnic areas, ranger programs, a visitor center, and an environmental education center.Click here to locate Jean Lafitte Park
Another free thing to do in New Orleans is to take a free walking tour. New Orleans offers several free walking tours that I know about which include the following: The Free French Market Guided Tour, a free French Quarter walking tour, a free Garden District walking tour, a free Lafayette Cemetery guided tour, and a free French Quarter Riverfront walking tour given by the National Park service. While these walking tours are free don’t forget that the tour guides spend a lot of time and effort to provide you with a memorable New Orleans experience. Therefore please tip them graciously. For more information on FREE Walking Tours visit my New Orleans Guided Walking Tours page.
Visit New Orleans City Park
New Orleans City Park offers many activities that make visiting it qualify as a free thing to do in New Orleans. The 1300 acre park consists of several lagoons, lawns, trees, and areas of dense growth. City Park offers visitors a wide range of free attractions and activities. Free things to do include picnicking under the large moss draped Oak Trees, letting your toddlers play in the large kiddy play area, birding, relaxing on a swing surrounded by plants and fountains, lounging beside one of the many lagoons, feeding the ducks and strolling through the Sculpture gardens. Check out my New Orleans City Park page for additional park attractions and recreational activities. A spur streetcar line along North Carrollton Avenue takes the Canal Street Streetcar to City Park. For information on Celebration in the Oaks visit my Seasonal Activities page.
Visit the Chalmette Battlefield and Malus-Beauregard House
Down river of the French Quarter, just a short five mile drive, in the town of Chalmette is the site of the January 8, 1815 Battle of New Orleans. This battlefield is run by the National Park Service and is a free thing to do. It was here that General Andrew Jackson, and local volunteers, including Jean Lafitte and his band of pirates, defended the Crescent City from the invading British forces. The battlefield includes a visitor center with displays, maps, interactive exhibits and films that detail the war and this battle in particular. There are also outside exhibits including walkways to the batteries, the Malus-Beauregard House, and a 1.5-mile Battlefield driving tour loop. Take a couple of hours and visit the Chalmette Battlefield. You can drive there or take the Creole Queen Paddle Wheeler Battlefield Cruise. The battlefield is located at 8606 W St Bernard Hwy and their website is Chalmette Battlefield.
Each year, in January there is a reenactment of the battle, by volunteers, wearing authentic period uniforms, with exhibits of authentic armaments, tents, cooking utensils, and historical discussions about the battle. For information on the Battle of New Orleans Reenactment at Chalmette Battlefield visit my Seasonal Activities page.
Visit the Historic New Orleans Collection Museum
The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to the study and preservation of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South region. Located in the French Quarter the museum is housed in the Merieult House at 533 Royal Street which was built in 1792. The museum has both permanent and changing exhibitions. The museum shop features Louisiana books, prints, and specialty gift items. A great free thing to do in New Orleans!
Explore along Canal Street
Canal Street, New Orleans’ widest thoroughfare, has long served as the retail heart of the city. With its broad “neutral ground,” it is the traditional dividing line between uptown and downtown and represents two centuries of American commercial architecture. Canal Street has hosted carnival parades for almost 150 years, was the first city street to be illuminated with electric lights in 1882, and was the city’s transportation hub with as many as five streetcar tracks on the neutral ground. Canal Street from the river to Rampart Street runs the southern boundary of the French Quarter. Today Canal Street is host to hotels, restaurants, businesses, gift shops, fast food, Harrah’s Casino and still the street car lines, two tracks run down the neutral ground. Walking down Canal Street will take you to the Insectarium, The Shops at Canal Place , the Riverwalk shopping area, the river front, the Aquarium of the Americus, the IMAX Theater, the Canal Street ferry, and Harrah’s Casino.
Visit the Arts Market * On the St. Charles Streetcar line
If you are visiting the Crescent City on the LAST Saturday of the month then hop aboard a St. Charles Street car and head to the Arts Market. You will find it at Palmer Park which is the last stop on the St Charles Street car line. The Arts Market is presented by the Arts Council of New Orleans, is held the LAST Saturday of every month from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Arts Market features handmade, affordable art and crafts from local and regional artists and artisans. Styles of art include Painting, Photography, Ceramics, Glass, Jewelry, Wood, and Printmaking, plus handmade clothing, soap, candles, and other delights. Between 50 and 100 artists display and sell their wares each month. The Arts Market also features live entertainment, food and beverage booths, and a children's activities area. Be sure to check the Arts Market website for exact time and dates.